Whakaari/White Island: Intermittent weak ash emissions continue

Published: Tue Sep 14 2021 3:00 PM

Volcanic Alert BulletinWI – 2021/12
Tue Sep 14 2021 3:00 PM; Whakaari/White Island Volcano
Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2
Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow

Intermittent ash emissions continued last week, and further occasional emissions are expected to occur in the coming weeks. Small amounts of ash were carried by the vigorous degassing a few hundred metres into the atmosphere near the volcano, and further activity of this type is unlikely to affect the mainland. The volcano remains in a state of moderate to heightened unrest and the Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2.

Over the past week, we observed ash being carried within emissions from vigorous fumaroles within the active vent area at Whakaari/White Island. Observations of ash has been intermittent, and the amount of ash carried in the plume is small. When we have observed ash in the plume, these periods were not accompanied by impulsive or explosive seismic or acoustic signals, hence showing no evidence of eruption. Instead, this suggests that the activity is still passively driven by weak wall fragments falling into the gas stream through the active vents.

Ash and gas emissions remain confined to low altitudes and a small dusting of ash sometimes gets deposited on the island. Over the last few days, ash has adhered to our island-based webcam lenses, which has severely obscured our view of the vent area.

Ash emissions are passive and weak in intensity, which means that ash is unlikely to reach high in the atmosphere to then be transported onto the mainland. However, in case of strong northerly winds and more intense ash emissions, a fine dusting of ash could potentially be recorded along the Bay of Plenty coastline. More information of what to do if encountering ash can be found here.

The seismic activity remains similar to last week, with low levels of volcanic tremor and occasional volcanic earthquakes. Continued subsidence around the active vents, measured by satellite remote sensing techniques, shows a similar pattern to the last couple of weeks. We infer that gas release from depth is responsible for this deformation signal.

The current level of activity is consistent with moderate to heightened levels of unrest. As such the Volcanic Alert Level remains at 2 and the Aviation Colour Code remains at Yellow.

Equipment that provides real-time monitoring on the island is currently degraded and we are continuing to work on restoration options.

The Volcanic Alert Level reflects the current level of volcanic unrest or activity and is not a forecast of future activity. While Volcanic Alert Level 2 is mostly associated with volcanic unrest hazards (including discharge of steam and hot volcanic gases, earthquakes, landslides, and hydrothermal activity), potential for eruption hazards also exists and eruptions can still occur with little or no warning.

Further information about the volcanic alert levels and what they mean can be found here.

GNS Science and the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continue to monitor Whakaari/White Island for further changes in unrest.

Geoff Kilgour

Duty Volcanologist

Media Contact: 021 574541 or media@gns.cri.nz